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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, July 24, 2004

Another burial find halts work at Wal-Mart site

 •  State sets standards for archaeologists

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Amid the flap surrounding a set of human remains found last week at the Wal-Mart construction site that were improperly moved, yet another set of remains was found Thursday, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has confirmed.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Cynthia Lin said construction has stopped in both areas of the Ke'eaumoku Street site where remains were most recently found.

Lin said the site has been fenced off, and the remains — one set found July 17 and the other on Thursday — covered.

Lin said Wal-Mart is "fully cooperating" with a state attorney general's office investigation into last week's apparent violation of state law governing the handling of ancient remains.

"We are as concerned as everyone else is about this matter," Lin said. "As soon as this was brought to our attention, we immediately started looking into what occurred. We have halted construction in that area pending further direction from the State Historic Preservation Division."

Thursday's discovery brings to 44 the sets of remains found on the Wal-Mart site since construction began in December 2002.

The attorney general's office is investigating the circumstances under which Wal-Mart's contract archaeologist, Akihiko Sinoto, removed the remains found July 17 before notifying the State Historic Preservation Division and police department, as required by state law. The find was reported to the DLNR two days later.

According to state law, when iwi kupuna (ancestral bones) are found during construction, developers must stop work and call the preservation division and police. If the remains are less than 50 years old, police investigate. If they are older, the state is responsible for making a final determination on the remains.

Deputy Attorney General Trish Morikawa is investigating possible criminal violations, which could carry maximum fines of $10,000.

Fines also could be levied if civil violations are found, said Deputy Attorney General James Paige. That could result in equipment being confiscated and participants banned from working in construction or on state projects for as long as 10 years.

Sinoto, who works under Wal-Mart's general contractor, Dick Pacific Construction Co., told The Advertiser the July 17 find belonged to another cluster that already had been removed.

Because the remains were found on a Saturday, Sinoto said there was no way to contact the DLNR, and he called as soon as possible.

Archaeologists typically are called in to evaluate a site when the state deems necessary because of the historical record, an environmental impact statement or other evidence. Usually the archaeologist is hired and paid by the developer or company involved. If bones or ancient cultural artifacts are found, specialists in Hawaiian culture are assigned by the state to ensure proper handling and cultural practices. In this case, the state did not require Wal-Mart to hire an archaeologist, but the company brought one in.

Deborah Ward, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman, said the remains found Thursday were not moved upon discovery. Test excavations will be made in the area for more remains, she said.

The Wal-Mart/Sam's Club is expected to open in mid- to late October, and there is no way to tell whether the latest finds will affect that time line, Lin said.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.

• • •

State sets standards for archaeologists

An archaeologist must meet minimum professional standards to qualify for conducting archaeological activities in Hawai'i. These include a graduate degree in archaeology, anthropology or closely related field, plus:

• At least one year of full-time professional experience or equivalent specialized training in archaeological research, administration or management;

• At least four months of supervised field and analytic experience in general North American archaeology, and

• Demonstrated ability to carry research to completion.

• In addition, a professional in prehistoric archaeology must have at least one year of full-time professional experience at a supervisory level in the study of archaeological resources of the prehistoric period. A professional in historic archaeology should have at least one year of full-time professional experience at a supervisory level in the study of archaeological resources of the relevant historic period.

A list of organizations or individuals that have engaged in contract archaeological work can be found on the State Historic Preservation Division Web site, www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/hpd/archcon.htm.